Residents concerned about use of state money for wireless expansion
by Linda Donaghue
Sep 04, 2017 | 3656 views | 1 1 comments | 141 141 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHITINGHAM – Residents Phil Edelstein and Dan Purjes approached the Whitingham Selectboard with their research and contacts regarding wireless and cell phone service expansion in Whitingham and surrounding towns.

Edelstein reported on a meeting some time ago with FairPoint Communications about the company’s plan for expansion. 

According to Edelstein, the state plans to grant FairPoint $120,000 to extend DSL service to the southern part of town, including Burrington Hill Road, Cyrus Road, Saddada Road, Chapel Hill, and other locations. He feels that FairPoint’s plans amount to “putting bald tires on an old vehicle.”

“It would be great to tell the state not to throw money at a potentially poor extension,” he said, “when they could give it to us after we develop our own plan, perhaps through VTel (Vermont Telephone Company).”

Purjes related his conversation with FairPoint, noting that he was told there were not enough telephone lines, and that to extend the lines would cost $15,000. “Why is that my problem?” he said and subsequently wrote a letter to various state officials explaining the situation. “If we can’t have decent internet, we can’t do business.”

Board member Karl Twitchell noted there are not enough wires.  “ FairPoint still has to fix the wires,” said Twitchell. “They could use the state money to upgrade infrastructure.”

Edelstein brought up the issue of VTel installing a new cell tower and noted that Purjes has offered a site on his property for a cell tower.  In his discussions with VTel, he’s learned that in three years, the company has fewer than 3,000 customers.  Whitingham and Halifax have a higher number of customers using VTel wireless than other, more populated areas of the state.

Board member Keith Bronson asked if VTel is connected to the tower behind the school in Whitingham.  Edelstein said that VTel is the only connection to that tower. He added that many customers connect to the Halifax tower, noting that it doesn’t matter from where you’re connecting.  “VTel is focused on more customers,” he said, “and needs to pursue business in more populated areas but Whitingham is the best area so far for increased customer base.  Make Whitingham a model town. If VTel puts a tower on Dan’s property, we can reach out to other towns such as Readsboro and Halifax.”

Edelstein said, “If we could show them there’s enough interest, they could put a cell tower on his land at 2,200 feet.  Would you consider doing some kind of polling or survey to see if people would be interested?”

Administrative assistant Gig Zboray said, “Maybe we offer a link to SurveyMonkey on the website and in the newsletter to get citizen interest in extending service.”

Edelstein said that it was important to note that VTel doesn’t own the tower behind the school.  They are currently paying rent.  If they had their own tower, the company could save some money, although Purjes pointed out that VTel signed a lease agreement for 25 years.  He felt that it would still make financial sense to erect an additional tower on top of his hill.  The company could conceivably reach communities like Readsboro that have no wireless connection.

“I never see any television advertising, like Verizon or Comcast,” said Twitchell and it was generally agreed that VTel needs to put more effort into reaching out to potential new customers.

Edelstein said that the personal touch, talking to friends and neighbors, is important.  “The best advertising they’ve had here was me,” he added. Twitchell said that getting second homeowners on board was also necessary and questioned if a mailing could reach that demographic, Bronson adding that advertising the cost benefit would also help.

In addition to anticipating a survey in an upcoming newsletter and at Town Meeting, a petition could be generated and placed at the post office, library, general store, and gas station.

Edelstein said that he and Purjes would continue to pursue the project.  He added, “The key is to get the word out and take potential new customers to VTel,” in order to convince them of the viability of an additional tower.

In other matters, Bronson related a meeting with road commissioner and fire chief Stan Janovsky regarding the purchase of a four-door pickup for first responders.  “They have the money,” Bronson said, “not the space at the garage.”

Janovsky wants to add a bay to the existing garage in Jacksonville and is looking for the town’s help in financing that project.  Various options about securing the funds were discussed.  Bronson said that he advised Janovsky “not to go to Town Meeting asking for money given what taxes are now.  Keep it in house.”  Janovsky and Zboray will continue researching logistics, funding, and any necessary permitting.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Robert Leete
September 05, 2017
I would not give Fairpoint one red cent! The sale of FairPoint Communications to Illinois-based Consolidated Communications is just around the corner. I say let's see what the new company is going to do first.

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